France awaits the word to send Katrina aid
PARIS, Sept 2 (AFP) - France's foreign ministry released details on Friday of its offer if humanitarian aid to the southeastern United States hit by a devastating hurricane, including air and naval assistance.
“We are naturally ready to provide help for the Americans and that is what we have told them,” Villepin told the private TF1 television channel during an interview.
“We have civil rescue facilities based in the West Indies,” Villepin said, referring notably to France’s overseas possessions of Martinique and Guadeloupe.
The foreign ministry said it was expecting to hear “fairly soon” whether Washington intended to accept its offer of assistance.
The French statement came as the White House in Washington announced that the US would accept offers of aid from abroad.
“We are open to all offers of assistance from other nations, and I would expect we would take people up on offers of assistance when it’s necessary,” said spokesman Scott McClellan.
Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy also contacted the US Secretary for Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to offer French aid.
Eight aircraft — including two already in the area — two ships and a 20-man team of military medical experts, were ready to be deployed at Washington’s request, foreign ministry spokesman Denis Simonneau said.
France was also offering 600 tents, 1,000 camp beds, 60 generators, three water treatment plants, and 1,000 jerrycans, with the equipment ready to be shipped at short notice from the French Caribbean island of Martinique, the ministry said.
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin offered on Thursday to send aid to hurricane-hit areas of the United States, saying that resources could be sent from French territories in the Caribbean.
An interior ministry team of 35 people, including 11 hurricane specialists, can be immediately deployed from the French overseas possessions of Martinique and Guadeloupe.
A 60-man airborne team was also on alert and ready to be deployed from mainland France, de Villepin said.
One of the biggest emergencies is in the port city of New Orleans, which was originally founded by French settlers.
The Telecoms Without Borders non-governmental organisation and the water company Veolia had also offered their assistance with restoring telecommunications and water networks in the afflicted areas, the spokesman said.
Several thousand people were feared killed in the southeastern states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama after they were lashed by Hurricane Katrina on Monday, with thousands still trapped in New Orleans and elsewhere in Louisiana.
The foreign ministry said several French nationals were trapped in New Orleans but there were no reports of French casualties.
President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday sent a letter to his US counterpart, George W Bush, expressing his “heartfelt emotion” at the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.
Subject: French news, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, de Villepin, Sarkozy, humanitarian aid